Yesterday I signed up to take part in the CongoSwim. Held on August 25, a UN Orange Day to witness and work to end violence against women, CongoSwim will raise awareness about violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly against women. The event will also raise funds to care for the victims of violence and to help prevent future violence.
Swimmers across the nation are joining CongoSwim 2013, a collective call to action to break the silence about the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II and the worst humanitarian crisis of our time by sending a WAVE of Love to people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
CongoSwim 2013 will take place worldwide on August 25 when swimmers and ‘not yet swimmers’ will swim in solidarity with Congolese working for peace and stability in the heart of Africa.
Coco Ramazani is a young survivor of systematic rape in eastern Congo whose horrific story is told in Tell This to My Mother by Joseph E Mwantuali. To mark the global event to spotlight how soldiers are ordered to rape women and children to destroy communities in the scramble for Congo’s resources, Coco will take part in a healing ceremony on the pilot boat while CongoSwim founder Keris Dahlkamp strives to swim 22 miles across Lake Tahoe, expected to take him 12-14 hours. Rape as a weapon of war has been used around the world throughout history, yet an overwhelming silence remains.
International model Noella Coursaris Musunka, founder of The Georges Malaika School for Girls in Kalebuka, southeast Congo will host a party with the students in solidarity on August 25. Nunu Kidane, the Director of Priority Africa Network, who was recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House, will be swimming in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kidane says:
“I’m coordinating a swim with members of my local YMCA because what has been happening in eastern Congo is similar to what happened in the Holocaust, protracted over many years. Little attention has been paid and few are asking why. As in the past, when the full scale of the reality is finally revealed, many will ask ‘how can this be? I did not know.’ We all need to be involved for our common and shared humanity.“
Join Charles Chapman of New York, the first African-American to swim the English Channel, along with various Girl Scout troops, college super swimmers and senior citizens who have registered unique swim actions to take place in their communities on August 25. Families are encouraged to register their child’s swim lessons or participation on a swim team with CongoSwim. This unique and inspiring collective swim was organized by volunteers in observance of Orange Day, a call to action by the United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls.
There is no registration fee, but participants are encouraged to raise funds for the Congolese grassroots groups receiving grants from Global Fund for Women and Friends of the Congo. A portion of the funds raised will also benefit the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative, to prevent children from drowning in the US. Upon registering, participants receive a Swim Pack with sample fundraising letters, facts about the Congo as well as tips for talking with children about injustice.
- In northeastern Congo, the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII has claimed an estimated six million lives from war related causes, half being children under the age of 5.
- Rape as a weapon of war. Hundreds of thousands, some say millions, of women and children in Congo have endured extreme and systematic sexual violence by government and militia soldiers.
- Vital to the fight against climate change. Congo is a part of the second largest rainforest in the world.
- An abundance of minerals, which help power our laptops, cellphones and many other products we use daily are mined in Congo
- Public Law 109-456, the U.S. government has a law on its books that can help advance peace and democracy in the Congo. It was sponsored by President Obama when he was Senator but it has yet to be fully implemented.
The ingenuity, vision and resiliency of the people are far greater than the mineral wealth of Congo. Thousands of Congolese women and youth leaders are organizing a movement denouncing violence and bringing solutions to national and world leaders. In solidarity with this movement, CongoSwim 2013 uses swimming as a vehicle to raise consciousness and support for the worldwide movement for a peaceful, just and dignified Congo.
Watch for more about how and why I will participate later. For now, think about taking part yourself.
See you along the Trail.